Health & Wellness

At Schnitzer, health and wellness have always been an integral part of our Core Value of Safety, but this year COVID-19 brought our efforts in this area to the forefront.

Protecting our workforce by managing health and safety risks inherent in our business included implementing a wide range of controls and other protective measures at our sites to detect and prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a host of challenges requiring businesses everywhere to adapt and adjust. Because our operations at Pick-n-Pull, our metals recycling facilities, and Cascade Steel were deemed essential businesses by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, our response to this very fluid crisis had to be fast-moving and flexible. As news of the pandemic spread, we activated our Crisis Management Team comprised of senior leaders in operations and shared services. We also ensured that we had a comprehensive technology platform to enable employees to do their jobs remotely where feasible. By mid-March, we had established control measures across all businesses to protect our employees, contractors, and customers in line with guidance or directives from federal, state, provincial, and local governments and advice from the World Health Organization. Employees at our corporate offices, and many of those in offices at our operating facilities, began working remotely.

One of the main controls established was to monitor employee health. We utilize an independent 24-hour telemedicine service that allows any employee who exhibits COVID-like symptoms or who tests positive for COVID-19 to be connected with a licensed medical professional who helps assess the situation, provides direction for self-isolation and access to testing facilities, and provides a connection to healthcare providers. The HR Business Partner supporting the employee’s location follows up regularly throughout the employee’s illness, isolation, and recovery period.

During the COVID-19 health crisis, in those instances where an employee was a confirmed positive, the employee was compensated at their regular rate of pay while also retaining health and welfare benefits during their recovery, and until returning to their work schedule.

At our facilities, we instituted a range of safety practices and COVID prevention controls, such as temperature screening, symptom checks, wearing face coverings, hygiene and sanitation procedures, social and physical distancing, touch-less equipment, and other paperless reduction processes. To monitor the effectiveness of these controls, our Health and Safety team created a protocol for auditing facilities on their performance against our COVID-19 controls. The results of these audits are reported to senior leadership and used to make any necessary performance improvements.

Because many of our industry peers are also essential businesses, Schnitzer has been benchmarking our response against our fellow members of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and sharing best practices. Regular and transparent employee communication also has been critical to our safe response. Weekly messages of support help to keep safe behaviors top of mind.

Strong Connections Amid Social Distance

In the early days of COVID-19–related stay-at-home orders, Dave Pagliuca and his wife decided to pass the time with some spring cleaning. Dave, a transportation supervisor, manages the railcar fleet in Schnitzer’s northeast region, overseeing the movement of scrap metal between customer sites, shredding facilities, and mills. Spring in New England is pollen season. And, as the Pagliucas aired out their home, they also brought on a bout of seasonal allergies—or so they thought.

The couple didn’t think much about their symptoms, including low- grade fevers and fatigue. But days later, their symptoms had worsened, and Dave’s wife reported a fever of 103 degrees. They contacted their doctor, who conducted a COVID-19 test and ordered the family to quarantine. Ultimately, both Dave and his wife tested positive.

When Dave got the news, one of his first calls was to Marco Liberal, Regional Logistics Manager and Dave’s supervisor. Marco offered to help with anything the Pagliucas needed, checking in daily on the family’s health. Dave also heard from Schnitzer colleagues in HR, as well as the Regional Director and VP of Operations, both of whom shared concern and offered support.

Dave, who experienced milder COVID-19 symptoms than his wife, continued to work remotely while serving as caretaker for the duration of their self-quarantine, which lasted nearly three weeks.

Now virus-free, Dave splits his time between remote work and periodic visits to Schnitzer facilities, where protocols like temperature checks, staggered arrival times, and mandatory mask-wearing are in place. He’s proud of the precautions Schnitzer is taking to keep employees safe, and of how cared for he felt during his own illness.

“Schnitzer provided an added support network outside of my family during a difficult time,” Dave says. “Knowing they were there and willing to help was really important.”